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Multiple deaths and injuries in northern Portugal community center fire

Some 70 people had gathered in the building in the town of Tondela when the fire broke out. More than 170 first responders were on the scene bringing people to safety.

At least eight people were killed and dozens injured after a heater exploded and started a fire in a community center in northern Portugal late Saturday.

The fire broke out in the two-storey building in the town of Tondela, some 250 kilometers (150 miles) north of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

"Around 70 people were having dinner in the building when the fire broke out and we have a number of dead people as well as between 50 and 60 people injured," civil protection chief Paulo Santos told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Ambulances arrive at scene of fire as police cordoned off a street in Tondela

A heater exploded and started a fire late on Saturday at the packed premises

Local mayor Jose Gomes Jesus said people had gathered in the center for an amateur card tournament when a wood-burning stove inside the building exploded.

Witnesses said the fire spread rapidly through the building, causing many people to panic. Tondela fire service said they put the flames out after an hour.

More than 170 first responders and three helicopters were reportedly bringing people to safety. Many of the injured were brought to local hospitals suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.

Over 100 people were killed when some of the worst wildfires in Portugal’s history devastated the area around Tondela in October.

Read more: Portugal: As wild fires fade, survivors blame government for deaths

amp/jlw (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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